By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Simona Halep  def. Angelique Kerber  6-3 4-6 9-7
- Halep will face Caroline Wozniacki in the final
- Both will also be battling for the World No. 1 spot and a maiden Slam
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Simona Halep went the distance again as she outlasted 2016 champion Angelique Kerber to reach her third Slam final.
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Simona Halep  def. Angelique Kerber  6-3 4-6 9-7
The World No. 1 Simona Halep lived up to her billing as she went into extra time once more at this tournament as she outlasted one of the fittest players on the tour to book her final berth.
It really was a dream start for Halep who raced out to a 5-0 lead in around 15 minutes as it looked as though former champion Angelique Kerber had not even found the court. Nothing was going in and Kerber looked frustrated before rallying briefly to take three games in a row off Halep.
It was a little too late though as the World No. 1 was certainly playing like one as she wrapped up the first set tidily. Kerber was beginning to get back into the match though, and although it was Halep that took first blood as she broke in the second set, Kerber immediately responded and seemed to grow in confidence from that point.
She broke Halep, who was veering more towards the negativity we have often seen when things start to spin out of her control, as Kerber levelled the match on her third set point.
It was a nervy start to the decider with the pair trading breaks at the start. First Kerber had the initiative, then Halep broke before being pegged back and had two match points before Kerber hustled a hold, and broke Halep as she served for the match.
Kerber would even have two match points of her own before they battled on, playing to advantage of course in the deciding set. In the end it was Halep to break the deadlock, breaking for the match and taking it on her fourth try to earn a spot in her first Australian Open final.
Kerber admitted that four weeks of continuous play had finally taken its toll:
“I was feeling my legs, of course, already in the first set, but I think at the end I was just trying to give everything what I have left today. I was fighting until the last point, and I came back after the first set and also when I was, like, 3-5 down in the third set, and I think for me I was just fighting for every point.
“You have days where you’re not feeling good, but my heart was on court, and I think this is, for me, the most important thing that I put everything on the court.
“This is what I will tell myself in the next few days. And looking back what I achieved in the last three weeks, it was not so bad, I mean, when I looking back four, five weeks ago, and somebody told me that will win so many matches in a row, winning a title, being in the semis here, yeah, and still having the opportunity to win this match, as well. I think I will just take the positive things from the last three, four weeks and I’m looking forward.”
Halep now has to gear up for another battle and a lot of running, but there seems to have been a shift in her mentality for sure.
She said: “The confidence is very high. Also, the fact that I’m really tired is normal because I played so many matches. I spent so many hours on court. I’m happy. In this moment doesn’t matter. Just the fact that I won this match and I can play the final again.”
She had known it was going to be a tough match against Kerber, and even though she was within a whisker of snapping up the first set in decent time, she knew it was not going to be that easy as Kerber rallied.
“I was thinking how to play her to finish the points quicker. She was returning every single ball. And at 4-3 in the second set when I had break point, that ball, when it touched the line, got me down a little bit.
“But still, I know that she’s a fighter. So I knew I have to stay there and to just to keep the balance between fighting and also controlling myself.”
She can of course expect more of the same against Caroline Wozniacki who leads their head to head 4-2 with a run of three wins at the moment,
“The way she’s playing, she’s not missing. She’s running very well. So she’s a strong opponent. I played many times, yeah, like you said. I won against her few times.
“It’s going to be a different match, new match, a tough one. Emotions are there. Pressures are there for both of us. We’ll see what is gonna happen.”
The Australian Open Women’s final will take place at 7:30pm (8:30am GMT) on Saturday 27 January.
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